Albemarle Supervisors approves rental of former J.C. Penney as public safety operations center

David Puckett, the Deputy Chief of Operations at Albemarle Fire Rescue, reminded Supervisors that they have hired several personnel in recent years to expand capacity. 

“While the vast majority of those positions are out in the field directly providing service there are a number of administrative positions added to make sure we could successfully on-board, train, and support those personnel long-term.” Puckett said. 

Puckett said space is full at the county’s offices on Fifth Street Extended.  The Department also now has its own dedicated fleet manager as well as a mechanic to conduct in-house repairs. All that work also requires space, and the J.C. Penney used to have a tire shop.

“The lack of a centralized facility has required us to store parts and equipment in fire station closets and storage rooms throughout the county,” Puckett said. “This has resulted in loss productivity. As an example, if a mechanic is out working on a truck only to determine that the part needed to complete the repair is halfway across the county, it requires more time and energy to go get the part before they complete it.”

Puckett said stations themselves are not really set up for vehicle repair.

Albemarle Police Chief Sean Reeves said more space has also been a capital need requested by law enforcement. 

“Some of the capital improvement projects from over ten years ago, from two chiefs of police ago, called for a site that we could use to expand stored evidence, store vehicles that are in evidence, and an evidence processing bay that we do not have,” Reeves said. 

Colonel Reeves said using the J.C. Penney site would cut down on the capital cost to build such a place. He also said the traffic unit would move to the new location, freeing up space at the County Office Building on Fifth Street Extended.

“And that space that’s freed up at COB-Fifth, what that would do is go toward supporting the mental health unit, the officers that are going to be picked and selected as staff for the new mental health unit,” Reeves said.  

The J.C. Penney site is owned separately from the rest of Fashion Square Mall by a subsidiary of Seminole Trail Properties. Stewart said this use would not preclude redevelopment of the site in the future. The project is also outside of the jurisdiction of the Albemarle Architectural Review Board. 

The lease would be for ten years with options to extend that as well as to expand to more of the J.C. Penney site in the future. The rent of $558,000 a year is based on $12.50 per square foot, and the rent would increase by 3.5 percent each year. 

“And I can tell you that having looked at a number of industrial and commercial properties that we thought might be suitable options, that is well below typical for the market,” Stewart said. 

Final details will be worked out as the lease is negotiated. 

Supervisor Ned Gallaway lauded staff for negotiating a good price and said this was a good location for this use. 

“This is an area where the Rio Road Small Area Plan is,” Gallaway said. “When we think of the county investing in this location, we can be a vibrant anchor tenant to an area that needs redevelopment and needs activity.

Albemarle County will move forward with the lease of a former department store at Fashion Square Mall to serve as a new operations facility for fire and police. 

“It does have a central location, it’s got a very large warehouse, with a great loading dock,” said Lance Stewart, the county’s director of facilities and environmental services.  “All together it’s about 33,000 square feet which is almost a third of the J.C. Penney site. 

On July 20, Supervisors authorized a lease and signaled a willingness to pay over $3 million in capital costs to get it ready for public safety work. 

“This has been a known and growing need for many years including capital requests that were submitted for new construction in the past but not funded,” said Lance Stewart is the director of the Facilities and Environmental Services Department in Albemarle County. 

The area for the proposed lease. View the presentation for more details.

David Puckett, the Deputy Chief of Operations at Albemarle Fire Rescue, reminded Supervisors that they have hired several personnel in recent years to expand capacity. 

“While the vast majority of those positions are out in the field directly providing service there are a number of administrative positions added to make sure we could successfully on-board, train, and support those personnel long-term.” Puckett said. 

Puckett said space is full at the county’s offices on Fifth Street Extended.  The Department also now has its own dedicated fleet manager as well as a mechanic to conduct in-house repairs. All that work also requires space, and the J.C. Penney used to have a tire shop.

“The lack of a centralized facility has required us to store parts and equipment in fire station closets and storage rooms throughout the county,” Puckett said. “This has resulted in loss productivity. As an example, if a mechanic is out working on a truck only to determine that the part needed to complete the repair is halfway across the county, it requires more time and energy to go get the part before they complete it.”

Puckett said stations themselves are not really set up for vehicle repair.

Albemarle Police Chief Sean Reeves said more space has also been a capital need requested by law enforcement. 

“Some of the capital improvement projects from over ten years ago, from two chiefs of police ago, called for a site that we could use to expand stored evidence, store vehicles that are in evidence, and an evidence processing bay that we do not have,” Reeves said. 

Colonel Reeves said using the J.C. Penney site would cut down on the capital cost to build such a place. He also said the traffic unit would move to the new location, freeing up space at the County Office Building on Fifth Street Extended.

“And that space that’s freed up at COB-Fifth, what that would do is go toward supporting the mental health unit, the officers that are going to be picked and selected as staff for the new mental health unit,” Reeves said.  

The J.C. Penney site is owned separately from the rest of Fashion Square Mall by a subsidiary of Seminole Trail Properties. Stewart said this use would not preclude redevelopment of the site in the future. The project is also outside of the jurisdiction of the Albemarle Architectural Review Board. 

The lease would be for ten years with options to extend that as well as to expand to more of the J.C. Penney site in the future. The rent of $558,000 a year is based on $12.50 per square foot, and the rent would increase by 3.5 percent each year. 

“And I can tell you that having looked at a number of industrial and commercial properties that we thought might be suitable options, that is well below typical for the market,” Stewart said. 

Final details will be worked out as the lease is negotiated. 

Supervisor Ned Gallaway lauded staff for negotiating a good price and said this was a good location for this use. 

“This is an area where the Rio Road Small Area Plan is,” Gallaway said. “When we think of the county investing in this location, we can be a vibrant anchor tenant to an area that needs redevelopment and needs activity.


Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the August 2, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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